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Council holds off on fee increase

Officials sign off on purchase of land for green belt around Santa Clarita

Posted: May 26, 2009 10:10 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The City Council sent a proposed adjustment to Santa Clarita’s drainage maintenance fee back to the drawing board Tuesday night.

While 86 percent of the parcels in the city — more than 46,000 — would qualify for a reduction to their stormwater pollution prevention fee, the remaining 14 percent — 7,735 — would see an increase, said Travis Lange, the city’s environmental services manager.

The average home would see a rate reduction from $24 per year to $21.50 per year, he said.

At City Manager Ken Pulskamp’s suggestion, the council unanimously voted to continue the issue to a date uncertain.

The stormwater fee provides funding for state-mandated drainage facilities within the city.

Several residents spoke during the public comment period of the council meeting, voicing frustrations that their rates will go up simply because they have larger parcels of property, not taking into account water-absorbing open space.

“It doesn’t make logical mathematical sense,” said Walter Watson, who said his annual stormwater rate would increase to $95.41 from $55.41.

Henry Rose told the council he lives on 15 acres, and that his rate would increase from $156 per month to $552 per month.

Because the rate changes would not take effect until 2011, Pulskamp proposed holding off on the public ballot for the fee change and giving city staff time to examine the 14 percent of affected city parcels, to see whether exceptions can be made.

“It’s appropriate to go out and look at the properties,” he said to applause from the audience.

The council also signed off on the $2.5 million purchase of 140 acres of contaminated land in Sand Canyon, to be added to the so-called green belt of open space around the perimeter of the city.

The property was formerly home to Special Devices Inc., located east of the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. The purchase is expected to top out at $2,511,300.

The city started negotiating with Placerita Land and Farming Co. in September 2007. The land would join about 3,400 acres of open space already under the city’s control.

Moorpark-based Special Devices Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection last December.

About one and one-half acres of the property contain low levels of chemical contamination, the result of manufacturing aerospace applications and ignition devices for use in automobile air bags, according to a report by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“This piece of land ... speaks to you,” said Rick Gould, director of parks, recreation and community services, extolling the positive addition the land will be to the green belt.

Several residents stepped up to the microphone during the public comment period, urging the city to have a new appraisal done on the property.

“Why (spend) $2.5 million for an unbuildable piece of land?” asked Cam Noltemeyer, speaking on behalf of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment.

Placerita Canyon resident Valerie Thomas urged the council to ensure the city would not bear the liability for cleanup on the site at any point.



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